Skip to main content

tv   Book TV  CSPAN  April 20, 2013 2:00pm-3:01pm EDT

2:00 pm
together some remarkable, exceptional of the stock about their latest works and the ideas behind them. today we going and a piece of paper that says that it is critically important that i read this. the first is pleased silence all cell phones during the session. melson need to tell you, there is a book signing following the session. the book signing for this battle is located at staging area number-one. i am told this is noted on the festival map in the center of the event program. the authors will be available to sign their books immediately following our program. a final note here is to say that personal recording of this session is not allowed. if you're doing so, please stop. you are about to meet these authors. before i introduce them, i want to point out something that they all have in common. have been doing the festival for many years, but i believe this is the first time that i have never moderate a panel on which every single author was a finalist for a times book prize.
2:01 pm
[applause] everyone but me, that is. [laughter] that should give you some sense of the depth and quality of books who are up to talk about. not had the pleasure of reading of them, i can tell you that the judges chose wisely. let me introduce those of this to you. to my immediate left, professor of history in women's studies at penn state university where she has taught since 1995. see is the author of four books and more than one dozen articles add to century american history. receiving fellowships from the guggenheim foundation, national endowment for humanities and the huntington among others. her most recent book was a main selection for the history work of the month club. an evocative, summary account of war that has real obligations for the president has received two votes consideration until now. to our left, hw brand him a bill to his friends teaches history
2:02 pm
at the university of texas in austin and is the author of more than any of the books. his most recent is the man who saved the union, a biography of ulysses grant colleges volume three in his collection of biographies that span american history from colonial times to the present. have the pleasure of reading this book in galleys. getting my hardbacks signed by bill. to his left, and author, rmer coa.t and a scholar, and latest book is roger williams and the creation of the american soul. church/state and the birth of liberty. he has also written to it -- wrigley at claimed histories of the great influenza and the mississippi flood of 1927. a speaker whose expertise in panama and influenza and water policy having kurds leading policymakers to solicit his input in those areas. he is also a distinguished scholar at tulane and the xavier university in this work is appeared in a number of the publications, including an influential pc row during a
2:03 pm
presidential campaign and the importance of separating church and state. a piece that i am happy to say, first appeared in the opinion pages of the los angeles times. finally, the man at the table there, an independent historian and journalist is larry focus has been that the nation's founding until the civil war. his latest is america's great debate, but he has also written about the underground railroad in washington d.c. he is currently working in the history of the first congress was greeted the federal government. a free-lance writer whose work has appeared just about everywhere. and one other note about and, i mentioned that every member of today's panel was a finalist for los angeles times book prize, and that is true. i should add one thing. not only a finalist, but the winner of this year's tom's book prize in history, which i had the pleasure of presenting in last night. [applause] congratulations. so, the topic of today's panel
2:04 pm
is american audience and i don't know what that means. still, they handed me the title. that said, it is true that all of these books examine. it's directly in that category. wars in divisions around them. some of those resounding questions of the dates that create their public itself. trying to tease out what this means in american arguments. at the notes are with you. it is a lesson to be much question about the slavery in the civil war representing an argument. he talked with the argue beyond your book and what they say what the country and now? >> i no there amazed tension between what you just may and that last sentence. was the argument of the civil war, the argument that give rise the civil war in the argue that making a buck. now, and fact, i am going to
2:05 pm
defer. on the second one. because although it is true that every work of nonfiction includes this was a leader implicitly an argument. i guess maybe some works of fiction do as well. i tend to be a blast -- left taken -- less taken by start the arduous than some other arthurs the real-estate in and i used to be in part because the really interesting arguments of history are arguments that go through the art of human nature. those of the documents as much is there anything else demand as a result they really have no answer which does not mean they're not worth making, but you just ask the question, okay, was george wallace in the greatest president? was right eisenhower the greatest president? we could have this argument, and it would not really change the history of anything. it would, perhaps not change the way we think about it. i teach writing at the university of texas as well as history. one of the things i tell my princess historians is that every work of history is a
2:06 pm
combination of story and argument, of narrative and pieces. and i have to say that the longer write the more i emphasize the narrative, the more i emphasize the story. and the less attention i give to the argument. some of this has to do with what i alluded to a moment ago which is arguments come and go. you know the arguments. eisenhower, when he was in office was considered to be this bill guy he really did not have a sense of all was going on, and then there was this wave of eisenhower revisionists and every he was then and beyond everything that happened in the 1920's. i don't know that we ended up knowing more about eisenhower. sometimes we know more about ourselves and why we as these questions. i try and, in my book, i try not to make an argument for say. i try to focus on the story. now, sometimes, and everybody up
2:07 pm
here will appreciate how we get pushed by our publishers and our publicists to make a statement, to make an argument. and the title of my recent book, the man he said the union was not the original title. we talked around various things before we came up with that title. and you might think that the title like that states in argument. it is a grant to save the union. and now will say that -- well, what i will say is i did not go into writing the book intending to make any argument of. i've maybe was willing to make some observations : really wanted to do was to tell the story of this guy do until the civil war began had no observable gives an ahmanson oil prospects. and then within the space of three and a half years it became the nation's great hero. and after that he became twice
2:08 pm
president of the estates. during that time in american history, as pro and more difficult to be a good president and that in the at the time. and i wanted to know how these experiences affected this man as much as how this man affected the experiences. and i eventually came up with this title, the man who saved the union, which might, again, sound like an argument. granta's irresponsible guy. but one of the things that i don't say in the book commanderies now say this is that i have not decided whether it is that i don't want to signal the readers to what the point and try to make is our fondest not particularly trying to make it a point. but the man who saved me, that is the title. one of the things i don't say is whether saving the union was a good thing and not. now, maybe most readers would think that oh, of course saving the union was a good thing. i did until i moved to a state of the former confederacy. live in texas.
2:09 pm
i grew up in texas and went to college in california. i naively assess and that everybody including people live in former confederate states eventually came around to thinking of a fellow reagan idea that being in a together. but actually, one of the things i do in my class is this sketch alternative scenarios are students. and i could come as the later on. now poznan me now, sketch an alternate version of history where america turns out better if lincoln and grant and other people did not try to hold the union together in a to 61. i wrote a book before this on franklin roosevelt called a traitor to his cause. and it has a lot to do with the new deal. one of the things that i take great care to avoid saying in the book is whether the new deal was a good deal of bad deal. and this is because, well, commercially speaking. secondly because i really want readers to make their own judgment. i hope that people who like rant
2:10 pm
and a grant could read my book with equal benefit. here's the story. make of it what you will. anyway, that is where i am. >> that is a hard act to follow. you want to take care of the question? >> is a great question. you know, not to take exception to my colleagues in the standing of what argument the relationship between narrative is to my feel like you can't really make narrative unless you have an argument to go along with it. in other words, not believe there is such a thing that a narrative that is free from argument. and in the case of my book which covers the u.s.-mexico war, war that grant himself described as the most wicked ever fought, i really set out in this book wanting to make the argument that grant was right. this was a wicked war. crazy enough, this is an argument that historians have not made in at least not with much success. most people have written about the u.s.-mexico war and have a debt from military standpoint,
2:11 pm
and from a military standpoint it definitely was a success the united states. the u.s. won every single encounter in the u.s.-mexico war with the exception of the battle of san pascal, which most americans used to think of as a skirmishes of the battle. so they can still say, well, we won every battle in the war. so at a successful but it was a problematic war. think one of the american arguments that i was release setting got to address here, and that's been denied to address in the book is what makes a were just? what justifies a war? and it was a debate that people had the time, and by taking the title of wicket war, which is a title that i should point up, my press did not like and bought many people would find alienating and i was only really able to convince them that it was a good title for the buck by pointing out that it was something the gran said and also something that iran lincoln said camino, i wanted to show that we have wars in our past that weren't just.
2:12 pm
so what makes the war just? this is a debate, obviously, that continues to a state. the u.s.-mexico war was the first word starts with the president's july. it was the first or that a majority or at least a large part of the american people felt bad about at the time. is a war that we have tended to forget, and by we, i mean americans in general. not necessarily mean those in this room. but american said tended to forget and not think about it because it does not fit into the narrative of wars that we like to think that we fight, was like the revolution, was that the civil war, was like world war two. there's a reason why the forgot morris are forgotten. korea, vietnam, the u.s.-mexico border, these are wars that either did not necessarily work out for us or wars that we just -- as of the kind of course that americans fight. so i guess the american argument that this book makes and that i
2:13 pm
try to tell the story objectively, but the objective truth of it is that it really was a problematic for command was in many ways a bad war. you know, these are things that people need to think about, even today. what kind of war should we be fighting? and what is our responsibility as citizens in relation to the federal government? of the federal revenue gets involved and what the real biggies just demolish we do? in my book i show that during the u.s.-mexico wore a lot of people got together and they started an anti-war movement, and they actually ended the war. pope would have continued fighting a war, whenever ultimately probably taken more land from mexico if a lot of people, including a ramekin had not gotten up and said this is a terrible war. stop it. let's get out of mexico. oregon. >> john, and says this is a bad title for your book is your book takes place before there is in america. but obviously. >> there was an america.
2:14 pm
>> talk about the arguments of your book and how they apply. >> first, things don't just happen. people make them happen. the macon happen for reasons. and so if you want to call them arguments, they are. in fact, all of my other books around the 20th-century, and else has been to decade as a washington journalist, and this book started out in the 20th-century. i was going to write about events and the home front of world war one culminating in, essentially, an explosion in 1919 over a race labor merits scarce. identified half a dozen characters i was joined to follow closely a collided in 1919. one of them was billy sunday repro y'all know is the first pick televangelists. went to big cities. the model and so forth. and i was going to use sunday as
2:15 pm
a vehicle to look at the religion -- the role of religion in american life. and just doing my diligence in terms of research and the background of that history to my province back to john winthrop and made the city on the hills beach and roger williams founded ryland and was actually appeared in minister. and, on the basis of total, complete separation of church and state. and i thought i was writing about religious the verdi, and that is covered preseason that i was actually writing about liberty itself. and the argument, in fact, the tunnel should have been the title of the book, argue with the publisher. and did not want roger williams name in the title. chiefly because no one had heard of him. [laughter] >> a commercial. interestingly then make a commercial decision that his network. i thought, your nuts.
2:16 pm
the rabbi at less satisfaction from being proved right. although, as technically did make the times, the new york times list. the argument was the same. made this city and else piece that has mccourt ever since. defining s as a christian nation . and roger williams did not invent the concept of separation of church and state, but he was the first person to put the argument together in a comprehensive way that they should be totally separate. and he was the first person to actually say that a government has no more power, nor for longer times than the citizens consented. that was an incredibly revolutionary statement. the argument is actually on going. what is the relationship, obviously, between church and state? what is the relationship between
2:17 pm
a free individual in the state. both of those arguments continue today. and they should say, that williams mentor, francis bacon. ever cut. you're probably all heard of francis bacon very very few of the effort of cut. e was trouble the most important judge in english history die and he is a guy who actually said, the house of every man is as his castle, ruling from the bench. and that idea ran through williams remains. this conflict between the division and the new idea that win said, i think it's a pretty interesting conflict intellectually obviously peter still fighting it out. and the story of what lawyers went through, i think, is pretty interesting as well. the civil war, is a good friend of cromwell and milton and so forth. very much a player in the
2:18 pm
intellectual format of what was referred to as the world turned upside down, london and a civil war. >> the same question. >> thanks. ibook is entirely about argument. is about nothing but argument. it is about him arguing. the longest continuous debate in the american political history. 18491950. the united states senate and house representatives. it is about been arguing about slavery, arguing about what to do about -- with all the rounds that the united states acquired in the mexican war and all the reasons that any already sketched. it is about arguing over the united states tell what can the people we are and, to some
2:19 pm
extent how our government is supposed to function as a result of the increasing distortion built into it by the founders over the special, special grants of power given to slave-owning states. these arguments eventually arrive at what is called the compromise of 1850 which forced old civil war, which almost occurred in 1950. had it occurred, the debt, have been, i think, very different. probably would have been a war that the free north would not have one or possibly would not have eaten fought. the consequences of what happened in east powerfully on the argument of the year. i like to hear people arguing. i like getting down -- what should i say, the mazda of american politics.
2:20 pm
watching great man and not so great either, many of them really far from great as a matter of fact, but henry clay, daniel webster, john c. callaghan, my least favorite american political figure. the man he did more than any other american politician to destroy the united states or at least to damage it. and many others whose names are not so familiar in more. but men who believed in the power of argument and in an era when political to 51 rhetoric was not the kind of semi slanders word yesterday, but rather an eerie -- hierarchy by spoken art. in the use of language of political man, i keep saying men because there were not many women in politics. when the use of language by political man was one of a great national sports, and people
2:21 pm
would turn up by the hundreds and thousands to year speakers. lincoln douglas debates which come later, but orders word the great champions of the day. in the way that sports heroes and pop stars are today. and in the course of those ten months people vessels each other finally to the ground and as they said, come up with something called the compromise. many wanted it to many opposed it. and i was writing this book between primarily 2000 and 2011 it was not intended in any way as a statement about the situation in washington during that time.
2:22 pm
the unbridled gasol some reason. filibuerg in gridlock. the parallel between how congress was deceit in 1850 and palin was being in the years that i mentioned were pretty stark, as i was writing, so this book is not an argument on my part about america today, but on the other hand, it is kind of inescapable. it was to me at any rate, to draw some conclusions about, i think, how poorly we argue today . how shallow arguments are, how few americans in public life are it will to speak coherently much less eloquently in english. and what price we as a people pay for -- the -- that is an
2:23 pm
unintentional confiscation of modern speech. and finally a history of the underground railroad. and to the national history of the underground railroad and wisdom as you would imagine, abolitionists play a very strong role. i am very fond of the abolitionists, the people who helped make the world we live in . and artillery and marginalized and their day. but, i was inevitably writing a great deal about people who defended slavery who might have contempt for. inevitably. i live in present-day. nineteenth century. in this book really regenerated partly by his desire and its hand against my nature to touch you into the heads of people in the mid-19th century to the slavery, just the grazed in the
2:24 pm
world. they thought it was wonderful. it bought inciting people is just fine. that was principal. it thought it was immoral. they thought it was part of the american dream and wanted to carry it all the way to the west coast, often stated in the debate of 1850. we might today be sitting in the capital of the confederate state of south california with -- which had been developed by slave agriculture, thanks to jefferson davis and allies of his who wanted that to come to pass. bank the great debate of 1850 it did not happen. >> a perfect segue to what was going to ask each of you next. as each of you how you do with the present to some of this idea that we don't want to impose our values on the people that you're writing about because it would have been a different time, but also not withhold judgment of them entirely either. maybe start with you. you obviously have your views on slavery. how the you balance those ideas?
2:25 pm
>> that is a great question. i teach at penn state. teach graduate students and undergraduates. i really like what ferguson said it by getting into the minds of the people who thought that this is liberty was great. it is so easy to let the abolitionists and to identify with them. it is really, really not easy to like people like john c. calhoun . or to even understand them or even harder for me of a group of other politicians called the bill faces. >> the doe face. >> there were people like james you can, the only president from my state of pennsylvania, i said to say, who utterly -- northerners to utterly sympathize with the south. north as you thought slavery was okay or maybe even good. it was really hard to get into the minds of those people. but we live in a time now when certain things are completely unacceptable and people did not feel that way about and then. so there is -- it is hard to do,
2:26 pm
but is ultimately necessary to try and take people on their own terms. that said, you know, i don't know they necessarily have to present a story completely evenly. i think you can craft a narrative so that your political views are apparent to the reader. i think trying to obscure your political views is not necessarily the most ethical thing to do necessarily. so, yeah, it's a tough question. the case of the u.s.-mexico war presidents is a difficult figure to like. people did not like him in his own time. incredibly unpopular. really only success was a politician because his wife was very, very likable. a powerful political figure, but the two of them were extremely proslavery and what had discussions about it is god's will that slavery extend across the continent. so you believe that.
2:27 pm
he lied to made it everything he could to start a war against mexico, and then he pursued the war with a kind of attitude toward mexico that i think develop out of his own slate holding and that of the views of others level as of this class which was that people who are racially inferior and less powerful should necessarily band to the will of the racially superior more powerful people. so, again, this is an attitude that we are not necessarily comfortable with now. so it is tricky. think it is something every historian has to deal with, particularly historians have to deal with worse where there is one clearly good and was clearly bad side are with this time from where we are working which is also this kind of around the civil war timer is so easy now to say, well, over the good guys and your the bad guys to make the north was obviously the guy. abraham lincoln in 1851 to may
2:28 pm
give a speech about the compromise of 1850. actually 1850. he said in his speech and of course, lincoln was awake / pro republican at the time. he gave a speech in wisconsin, and he said bill let me make one thing clear. slavery had been established here in our portion of the country and had not been established in the south, then we now in the north would be arguing that slavery should extend. seven is a real human slavery is wrong. so such a great comment camino insight, there is economic reasoning. is not necessarily fair said tar one part of the country as being necessarily evil. lincoln did not see the point of doing that. even talking to a very, antislavery audience. >> john, you are from a different time obviously, but out of these planning your? >> well, the question of ethics, you know, tough right the president into the past is
2:29 pm
dishonest. to do it consciously. obviously, as i said earlier, i think the debate that started with one trip and williams obviously does continue today. you cannot -- you can never know what anybody thinks, but you can stand where they stood physically. you can read what they read. you can knows some of what they knew. and you can try to us figure things out and understand and, obviously, you can read the letters in such. get some sense, but in terms of present schism, i mean, that is is unethical. that is not truly being a writer. as being a leader. when you make that kind of argument and you select your fax, the response that -- it's
2:30 pm
irresponsible as an historian to do that. having said that, again, the essence of what my book is about is an ongoing debate. in fact, what came out a year go, january, a time when church-state were literally in the headlines much to everyone's surprise in the publishing house on a daily basis. and the war on religion that obama was waiting and so forth and so on. and the reality is, i mean, the first amendment to not emerge from the ether. it was not some intellectual exercise. it was as were the other amendments and the constitution and sells, specific responses to specific historical events. and in this but really it goes
2:31 pm
into many of those events. sort of grew and to the first night later. but as a writer, i think to try to prevent riding the present into the past, you have to be aware of your biases. and, as amy said, you don't have to hide the necessarily, but you have to be aware of them. he referred to the fact that i was a football coach and i did that for a few years after i dropped out of my ph.d. program in history. [laughter] and now was a defensive coordinator s small college, and we used to run the defense that had sort of a built-in weakness. it was great in many places, but there was an area of that defense that we were outnumbered by the offensive players. we ran the defense anyway and were actually quite successful,
2:32 pm
but we knew that weakness, and everything will -- every single day we practiced so that weakness would not kill us. and everyone we played try to exploit it. sigalert on a backboard and say, well, we have this advantage. we practiced against it. and it was actually quite successful. led the nation on our level in the few is once allowed. if i say so myself. [laughter] so if you are aware of the dangers, you can avoid them, just like to see patches of the nice, you go around them. and that is a question of ethics and self awareness. i think, as a writer of many things, certainly of history, if you're trying to be honest in history you have to have that awareness and avoid the mistakes. again, as emmy said, that does not mean you don't come in the
2:33 pm
end, necrily make judgments which have to be informed by your own experiences. >> you have tackled this time and again, i'm sure. >> i think people in this tree. writers write history. readers read history for a couple of reasons. one is to -- well, i'll put it this way, sometimes just by the president to justify it took the position that you have the present. different stories collected the same thing in the past and come up with different conclusions that justify positions they want to take in the present which is not entirely legitimate. the past has its uses and that is one. but another way of looking at the past another reason to go in the past strata understand it on its own terms. and to understand the past on its own terms i think you have to ask one question and then you have to suspend something that historians are very often considering stock in trade. the one question as kahlo with thinking? what were those people thinking?
2:34 pm
and you have to try to get yourself in their heads. in order to figure out what they're thinking, the historians, you have to suspend. hindsight. you have to forget everything that you know about what happened afterward. era of what some years ago. the folks who went to the alamo did not go to die. they went in there are going to win. and, of course, during the season gradually realized we're not going not going to come out alive. he died turns out the you know what they were thinking when they went and. their actions become an expert will. to pick up on a question that it formed the conversation a bit earlier, to we do about slavery? and we understand somebody like thomas jefferson? it is tempting to say, boy, i admire melodics for the slaves. and to somehow imagine that i jd
2:35 pm
whisper in jefferson's year and said, you know, you ought to emancipate the slaves. then you would really be somebody we can admire. but the problem is that if jefferson had not own slaves none of us in this room ever would have heard of him because he received what he did in public affairs because he was a successful man in colonial and an early stage virginia. and to be successful in virginia in that time he had to be a planter commander data on slaves. so, to wish the past to be different is really a waste of time. assets how to appreciate -- of the things that trijet give my students to think about, and i will admit that this is a ticklish thing because if not handled carefully and sometimes even when handled with ace was a careful as you come across sounding like an apologist for slavery.
2:36 pm
but how did you get students to appreciate what that the father of this country, of our country, a perfectly unrepentant slave owner. every president from the south and most of the presence of possible war or from the south. we do about this? i ask my students to think about what we are doing today beyond the pale of ethics, beyond the pale of morality because we almost certainly are. it is is that when you're in the press and you don't know what it is. so jefferson did wrestle with this issue of slavery, but he did not think he is going to go to hell because young slaves. now, it's pretty easy for us to wonder how could think that. in that pose this question to students for the last 20 years. what are we doing today the your grandchildren are going to
2:37 pm
continue morally for? and various times that come up with different answers. and one that seems to me to be the most, i think the most startling and lightning is that 100 years from now we're going to think that everyresident of the united states of your and including barack was a war criminal. and because if we can think that their work rules, that is die of heartbreak and great-grandchildren ended their war criminals, that would certainly suggest we figured out a way to eliminate or. if you want to know what the seven delegates to the constitutional convention of seven to 87 top of slavery, most of them thought it was a necessary evil. now, the attitudes would change by the mid-19th century. the book on slavery as a good thing. and in part because of the fact there were getting from the abolitionists. but i would suggest, there is a
2:38 pm
parallel of war. if you ask -- does anybody in this room and the war is a good thing? just in general? please raise your -- show fans. i can identify one really conspicuous individual in american history. theodore roosevelt because he thought the wall was a good thing, at least until it became president, once he actually went to war in many cases might be the point is to mike as this group, how many of you think that war is never a legitimate tool of national policy? okay. and they certainly have been and are pacifists, but the vast majority of you, i would say, are in roughly the same boat as a whole lot of slaveholders in the 1780's. you don't like war, but you cannot imagine a world without it. and so what i tried to a get across to my students is somehow to suspend there present imagination and try to imagine a different world.
2:39 pm
that does not mean that they have to hand sheriff thomas jefferson's view, but if they're going to understand the world we live in today the have to try to understand how racemes too smart and, i would say, sincere people in the past who helped moral and political views that we find today of pouring. >> we're going to turn to all of you. you'll pass the microphone around. before do that, one question. the bells are with you. idd is to back diaz appear for months at a time and research to back to then come back and write direct your right as you go? tell us a little bit and i read books. >> painfully, similarly to wallow. >> this sounds great. [laughter] >> and that love doing it. and i mean, you know, frankly it is never interesting to anybody else, i think. a stack of books or a stack, a
2:40 pm
computer. a photocopier. the library of congress. looking up my window and washington at people actually out on the street. in the son to me know. but i have books in my head all the time. my wife is too short -- my life is too short terrell the books that i want to write. i wish i could do it the way thomas jefferson did with his assassinating of literary contraption with two bands. of course he was writing the me whether. i don't think it would be especially advancing my career to be riding the same book twice .
2:41 pm
>> just to point out, not to books, two copies of one book. but if it more difficult it would not be worth doing. i mean, it's very hard. you can pick up on the subjects we have been talking about. very hard to get into that the people that had been dead for 150 years were 200 years. presume to know them. to ease your way into the interior of the lives in the minds. most of the time i feel that what i am writing is very stupid. you will get it. i don't get the person i am writing about. i don't understand the subject well enough. figuratively speaking what i have just done should go in the garbage can. on the other hand by contest we have a storage locker up in kingston, new york, filled with men in skirts that never
2:42 pm
internal white. tons of them. so i don't actually year of trying very much away except mentally. and to go back, and try to scrape another layer off. i did want to say a word to. demint, not interested in writing polemics, you know, arguing against the past on behalf of the present. and is not interested. you know, i am very interested in trying to get inside peopl who are sort of like me or like us but no really. and hs-see' to work like ours, but are not exactly like ours. and to know a world that is just out of my reach. and you know, it is easy to feel seduced by the people in the
2:43 pm
past who might -- to live like because they're more like me. and in this recent book of mine about the great debate camellia henry seward is that guy. seward, before it became lincoln's secretary of state, a flaming anti slavery radical, governor of @booktv and senator. and of all the people i wrote about in the book, soon as the man and i thought, if he walked into the room one this room if you are sitting in an audience, he would fit right in and do what we're talking about. he could join the conversation because he saw and described, and in not making this up. i mean, magnificently an accomplice beaches, he describes the world as he expected to be. and is the world we live in. so in that sense he is selected because the kind of wants -- will come he doesn't. he doesn't. he is kind of on the margin. he is the -- he is a magnet for
2:44 pm
a program because he is a radical. but he does not have a terrible unemployment. and on -- and coming you know, i -- i could not surrender to that section. on the other hand, people, often the most interesting of the ones are the furest from my own self and sense of values. you know, a real crazy guy, senator, henry foot who pulls out 86 gun on the floor of the scent and tend to shoot somebody. and -- i meant mss any individuals, a ferocious defender of slavery, believer in slavery. the counterpart of jefferson davis, his rival in mississippi. but on the other hand, he was awake. and aligned with henry clay and actually a significant extremely troublesome and irritating
2:45 pm
individual working a behalf of compromise. and a much more interested in the complexity of the individual with a configuration of additives and the here's that makes me want to get to the bottom of him than to sort of intellectually cohabitating with people who are familiar with me. and i would say that was also true of the abolitionist and although i admire there values, you would not want to be locked in a room with most of them. [laughter] >> we went a little long on time, but quickly tell us a little better lawyer price to book writing. >> welcome i try to research the subject until i feel confident that i have mastered it which, in know, that does not necessarily mean i have mastered it, but these i have get myself into thinking that. and when that -- in my case that is involved in the mississippi river hydrology, engineering, history of engineering,
2:46 pm
immunology, more recently theology and political philosophy that was a little bit foreign to me, although i have more background and an ad in virology. so you heart of it is fun, the intellectual challenge, trying to grass something that is ag of. curiosity. the rest, much of what fergus said, you do try to understand the figures whom you're writing about. i usually finish most of the research before i start writing. anyone has ever written anything knows this as you start writing is when you discover all the things you don't know. you, of course to have to circle back. in terms of last up resurging, it's sort of not just that i think i've mastered the subject of what i discover that i am
2:47 pm
going round and round, sort of like a snake eating his tail. and seeing the same primary sources. or the same arguments, serve the same in different sources. and i pretty much -- that is when i feel that i am not going to run across -- certainly something new, but not much new a fight in telling. >> in your amy greenberg nasty is speak slowly so that i can take notes. [laughter] >> i feel very fortunate in that light .. make a point of not writing about anything that i haven't thought about. it is great intellectual exercise to try to teach. .. to their tree class of freshmen and sophomores and groups of four under and 88 students in class this semester. else to teach graduate students. the introductory stevens, the fresh prince of wars are in many ways the most valuable for me to teach because i have to figure out how i can tell the entire story, for example, forward to in 75 minutes. and in any writer quickly will
2:48 pm
realize that you leave out a lot more than you can include. and you have to figure out what to leave out. you have to, at some point, say, as interesting as that is the man as important as that might be in other circumstances, that is not on the book. answer given these and treasury lectures is great intellectual discipline. in addition, it allows me to test ideas on students and see how they respond. i have bright students. there are relatively not even american history. a lot of them take advanced placement classes, with the average age is 9920 years old. and so if i can get a point across to them, if one of my arguments make sense to them okay, maybe it doesn't into it. so that's why do. teaching first and then write it. >> i would agree with everything of the rest of the palace of said. i doubt -- of that three things that.
2:49 pm
research is fine handwriting is hard. we will always research before right. the second thing is to my never know what i'm writing about until about halfway to the book. and suddenly realized a mile, this is what this book is about, which is one reason why you have to start researching more at that point because there are things you did not realize or pardon. oftentimes they're the same things that in documents that you took a lot of notes on. demoralizing. the third thing i would say is important at least for me of going into what my husband calls but muggy which is a mode where by which you are thinking about nothing but the book all the time. you walk around thinking about the buck, wake up thinking about the book. right, right, right, still thinking about the book. weeks of gone by. have not really noticed the seas is changing or anything else. so it's not the favorite note in my household for me to bien, but absolutely crucial for getting anything written. >> with that, questions from the
2:50 pm
audience. please wait until you get a microphone before u.s. to because of laws we will pick you up on camera. u.s. a question? down here in front. you have to wait for the microphone. and copley's to do as a favor. not accusing you, don't make a speech. as the question. >> my question is whether their is a real parallel between the argument for abolishing slavery and the argument for abolishing war. >> sounds like that's yours. >> the question is, is there real parallel? i don't know. the point that i was trying to make was i think every generation does seven things and italy. we do things that make us more -- morally queasy, but we think
2:51 pm
we have to do them. i would say that for our generation as for pretty much every generation before us, war is one of those things. again, ask for a show of hands. how many people think the war is a good thing and have many people think that war should never be used as a policy? >> we are then obviously all conflicted. i think if you look back on previous generations, to think that we can't morally understand how honest, sincere people could believe what they believe. well, it is our job as historians and their justin's of history if we really do want to understand the past, if we really do want to understand how this country came to be the way it is, we need to try to get inside. many to ask. what was he thinking in insisting on war with mexico. and what was ulysses grant
2:52 pm
thinking in going off to fight valiantly and successfully in a war that he considered wicked. what is going on? i said that my students sometimes have raised the analogy of work today, this thing that we are doing that our grandchildren is for. the one that has actually come up and the issue comes up more and more frequently until now i would say that 80 percent of my students say it's global warming besides coming you didn't do anything about it. our great grandchildren are going to have to live the the circumstances. at another they're right or wrong, this is the impression that they're getting. and i would just say that i think it is a useful exercise for all of us to ask ourselves, what are we doing that may be is not going to stand historical scrutiny. >> who else jack there we go.
2:53 pm
over in the corner. >> the economics of slavery and the impact of that, t decision making. economic, it is the strength and runs through our entire history. we can see it today with the budget, all of the gridlock that we have in the congress right now, fighting over money. money on this or not to spend the night going to austerity and so forth. you like you to comment on that. yet seen other examples that you have seen in your research. >> to you want to start? >> i am not 100 percent sure that i am clear but to question. abcaeight. >> i personally think that human beings all the time today as well as in past times do all sorts of things that are economically irrational.
2:54 pm
i think it has been fashionable, and i don't mean that and tennant -- denigrating sense. fashionable or acceptable for quite a long time to from economics and self-interest as a driving force in historical trends. that grossly diminishes him a choice. and human irrationality. people do all sorts of stupid things. reenact stupid laws that allow the people agree on because certain interest groups influence others the economic interest of a certain small bunch of businesses. but is it -- is that really why
2:55 pm
indus beeve that is ar good thing to do? or wildly misinterpret the second amendment because it to fill some other. and when with regards to slavery, you jump off of that, i mean, one of the things that has become clear to me the more i have built into the world of the slave owning south and, indeed, the pre emancipation north where it was not really all that different is that a lot of people realize that slavery, they liked it. it was not, yes, it was profitable, but it was not always all that profitable. and the motivator particularly in the 19th century was that much of the south considered it the root up into the respectable middle-class, to starting slaves. give you a status and stature the you might not have
2:56 pm
otherwise. so why did a lot of southern turf farmers fight for the confederacy and the budget. my great-grandfather never owned slaves to nobody sure what to. >> well, i second what he said. the economics are driving force, without a doubt. sometimes they're the most important, but it is an analogy that is perfect. however, going back, i was not writing about slavery in the 17th century, but they were bringing in slaves and selling slaves. the first government in the western world to outlaw slavery in 1652, although they subsequently stopped enforcing the law. and in the early days there was
2:57 pm
really a thin line. it was not really based upon race. and it the difference between an indentured servant in the early 17th century colonies in the slave, that is a very thin line. the irish for sold. and the americus, native americans were captured in war. there were sold. and sometimes if you were the wrong person you could find yourself sold off into slavery. if you were, pirates. europeans, not just the islamic pirates. there would go around the coast and inland and sell people antislavery. north africa. in the englishman who went on a
2:58 pm
voyage risk that. john smith had been a slave. the racial texture of slavery, the laws of economic 100 percent economic. actually came in quite a bit different. that did not really address your question. >> if i could interrupt you. time for one more question. [inaudible question] >> each of you take that one quick. >> i am currently working on a book. so this discussion of not using hindsight to think about things, one thing i have been interested in a long time is all of the attempts that the united states made to acquire territory failed . moments when americans decided not to acquire territory immobile what i want to do is write a book the looks of manifest destiny or american territorial expansion from the perspective of what did not
2:59 pm
happen to try to destabilize his narrative whereby we think of what u.s. boundaries are. is natural a lot of people thought the united states is going to take all essential america and canada and the mexican war made them think that. that to the workout. this is what my next project does. >> i am writing biography. california's favorite sun. >> go back to where i started, contemporary politics. having to spend several months writing a proposal and getting in shape to submitted. i thought, no one to read this book. it requires interviewing people live contempt for.
3:00 pm
[laughter] i can deal with people. .. the congress from 1789 to 1891, the first one of the constitution, which actu


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on